These days it’s hard to turn on the TV, watch sports or read the news without hearing about concussions and the dangers they present to athletes everywhere. It’s enough for parents to pull their children out of sports forever.
As a former college tennis player, I never thought concussions were a danger for me. I found out otherwise when I tripped over a ball during an overhead drill and suffered a concussion. While I was lucky that it wasn’t severe, the immediate effects were alarming.
I figured that I was fine and decided to jump into another drill and continue with practice. But when the ball came at me, I was seeing triple. My coach immediately sent me to the trainer. I was told not to play for two weeks.
While this experience was scary, I was lucky I did not suffer any long-term problems. However, I had not had any pre-concussion testing, so it was difficult to determine the severity. When I started working with the Banner Concussion Center in Phoenix, Ariz., I was excited to try out their comprehensive pre-concussion screening called BrainStamp™. Their screening is done in three parts: cognitive, balance and visual. While the tests were a lot of fun, I wasn’t as good at them as I thought I would be!
Cognitive testing evaluates your brain processing speed, memory, reaction time and visual motor skills. This test is done on a computer and is harder than you would expect! You have to remember complex shapes and words that you then have to match up later in the test. The test seems kind of like a memory game you might have played as a child, but actually gives physicians a good idea of how your brain typically functions, prior to an injury.
Balance testing uses a new machine from Bertec® . It tests your balance while seeing different visuals and causing the plate below you to move. I was seriously dizzy after getting off of it, but it makes sense that they use this to measure your ability to stay balanced in different situations.
The final test is vision. This is done by playing what seems like a fun video game and clicking on different shapes that show up on a screen as quickly as possible. It measures the speed and accuracy of vision and the brain’s ability to respond to the visuals.
Overall, my experience getting BrainStamped was a lot of fun and also really important. Getting pre-concussion testing is critical for young athletes and active adults alike. The tests give experts something to measure against, should you get a concussion, so that you can be treated effectively.
You can also test your knowledge of concussions by checking out these myths and truths! “Myths and Truths about Concussions”